Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Antony and Cleopatra, Act V: The Last Empress of Egypt

The last act of the play, for me personally, is not as impressive as the others. Is that because Antony has died? Why, maybe. The queen's interaction with Octavius is somewhat awkward. Octavius is not a merciful and wise king in the old story books. On the contrary, he would do anything to make sure that he holds the supreme power over all the world.

At the beginning of the first scene, Octavius finds out that Antony is dead. He laments his death, admitting that Antony was a great man indeed.

“O Antony!
I have follow’d thee to this; but we do lance
Diseases in our bodies: I must perforce
Have shown to thee such a declining day,
Or look on thine; we could not stall together
In the whole world: but yet let me lament,
With tears as sovereign as the blood of hearts,
That thou, my brother, my competitor
In top of all design, my mate in empire,
Friend and companion in the front of war,
The arm of mine own body, and the heart
Where mine his thoughts did kindle — that our stars,
Unreconciliable, should divide
Our equalness to this.”

Meanwhile, Cleopatra has great desire for death. Yet Octavius, by means of his servants guards her life. Cleopatra desperately calls for death, but she is not allowed to die.

“Where art thou, death?
Come hither, come! come, come, and take a queen
Worthy many babes and beggars!”

One other thing that I love from this scene is Cleopatra praising Antony so, describing how she saw Antony from her point of view. She is infatuated with the Roman general.

“His face was as the heavens; and therein stuck
A sun and moon, which kept their course, and lighted
The little O, the earth.
His legs bestrid the ocean: his rear’d arm
Crested the world: his voice was propertied
As all the tuned spheres, and that to friends;
But when he meant to quail and shake the orb,
He was as rattling thunder. For his bounty,
There was no winter in’t; an autumn ’twas
That grew the more by reaping: his delights
Were dolphin-like; they show’d his back above
The element they lived in: in his livery
Walk’d crowns and crownets; realms and islands were
As plates dropp’d from his pocket.
Think you there was, or might be, such a man
As this I dream’d of?”

I cannot imagine the guilt that burdens her heart, since Antony dies because of her lie. From Dolabella, she learns that Octavius wants to lead her in triumph, that is put her on display in his triumphal march back to Rome. For a queen, of course, it's an indescribable shame. She cannot bear it. Moreover, her own servant betrays her, thus adding more pain to her shame. It's more than the queen can bear. She and her maids are resolved to kill themselves.

“Give me my robe, put on my crown; I have
Immortal longings in me: now no more
The juice of Egypt’s grape shall moist this lip:
Yare, yare, good Iras; quick. Methinks I hear
Antony call; I see him rouse himself
To praise my noble act; I hear him mock
The luck of Caesar, which the gods give men
To excuse their after wrath: husband, I come:
Now to that name my courage prove my title!
I am fire and air; my other elements
I give to baser life.”

Death of Cleopatra by Reginald Arthur
Octavius is not surprised to see that Cleopatra is dead. He has known that she would rather die than being humiliated in public. But perhaps Octavius didn't guess that the queen would find means through the poison of an asp. He then gives her and Antony the last gift he can give: proper burial.

“She shall be buried by her Antony:
No grave upon the earth shall clip in it
A pair so famous. High events as these
Strike those that make them; and their story is
No less in pity than his glory which
Brought them to be lamented. Our army shall
In solemn show attend this funeral;”

No comments:

Post a Comment